When developing a recipe for a successful close-knit community, one essential ingredient is a generous helping of family-friendly events served up in just the right place. Celebrations that help define who we are as a people have been part of our community culture for decades. These popular occasions to get out and about are presented in an exciting area filled with historic buildings, chic boutiques, upscale personal services establishments, trendy restaurants and unique shops. Local businesses, the City of South Miami and other generous sponsors help to support these all-important community events.
First launched in 1971, the longest running event in town is the ChamberSOUTH South Miami Fine Art Festival, one of the premium fine art juried shows in the country. Held on the first weekend in November, the art festival kicks off the festival season in South Florida, with some 120 artist booths from around the world, delicious international food and live musical entertainment for the whole family.
At the festival, artists exhibit various media, including ceramics and clay; digital art; textiles; glass; jewelry and metalwork; two dimensional mixed media; three-dimensional mixed media; painting; photography; printmaking and drawing; sculpture; and wood. International food vendors featuring a wide array of cuisine will be available. In addition, the festival provides musical entertainment including performances from Area Stage Company, Miami Children’s Chorus, jazz group The French Horn Collective (presented by South Miami- Dade Cultural Arts Center), and others. ChamberSOUTH paired up with The Shops at Sunset Place and the Simon Youth Foundation to provide a children’s section with interactive activities for families.
Produced by ChamberSOUTH, the recently held 43rd annual art festival is sponsored in part by presenting sponsor First National Bank of South Miami, and receives support from the Miami-Dade County Cultural Affairs Department, the City of South Miami, and other local and national sponsors. (www.chambersouth.com)
South Miami’s winter holiday season starts with the annual Parade of the Elves. Held on the first Sunday each December, it is always a popular event with some 5,000 people lining Sunset Drive. This SOMI tradition has been called “the best hometown, homegrown parade in Miami-Dade County.”
Established in 1983 by the Red/Sunset Merchants Association and now sponsored in part by the City of South Miami, this child-pleasing event includes about 500 children dressed as Santa’s elves and other holiday fantasies. On-lookers come out to watch elves, marching bands, Scout Troops, church groups, decorated cars, floats and bicycles and of course Santa, who has agreed to make an appearance every year.
Sponsored by the City of South Miami for two decades, over 80 parade entries include local high school marching bands, Girl Scout and Brownie Troops, church groups, decorated cars and floats. From the first year and for years following, some of the prized returning entries include the South Florida Trail Riders, South Miami High School Band, the Mahi Shriners, with participation from Magic City Mustang Car Club, South Miami Hospital and the First National Bank of South Miami, which does the honor of presenting Santa atop a beautiful float. Santa always didn’t have a float. In the early years, South Miami Mayor Jack Block was Santa riding a tricycle; later parades saw Santa riding in a convertible.
“This is a great parade and something that everyone looks forward to. The tradition has moved from one generation to the next, with those who participated as children now watching their children march in the parade,” said John Sorgie of Sunset Quickprint, who is known as the “Father of the Parade.”
An organizing committee comprised of city administrators, business owners and other leaders from Footworks, the First National Bank of South Miami (FNBSM), Chamber South, South Miami Hospital, and SOMI Magazine among others plan for the parade over months.
A second art festival is held on Sunset Drive on the last full weekend in February each year, is South Miami Rotary Art Festival. What began as a Craftsman Festival in 1984 grew to include fine art in 2006. With an audience numbering about 30,000 and features 150 exhibits of fine arts and high-end crafts from around the country, multinational food, live music, a beer garden and great raffles. The festival includes the “Children’s Alley” with interactive and educational activities geared just for kids.
Wendy Lapidus, a Rotarian for 20 years, says she joined the club because of the good work they were doing with the art festival. “It was and still is a project with which I wanted to become involved. Rotary is a wonderful opportunity for service and camaraderie and I get to have both while doing what I love.”
The festival features 150 exhibits of fine arts and high-end crafts from around the country, multinational food, live music, a beer garden and great raffles.
The art festival is produced entirely by volunteers of the South Miami Rotary Club. Proceeds from the festival fund college scholarships for South Miami students, elementary and middle school dictionary giveaways and other service projects, all in keeping with the Rotary club’s motto to place “service above self.” (www.southmiamiartfest.org)
If you are looking for a safe place where your children can go “trick or treating,” come down to Sunset Drive and Red Road for Safe Streets Halloween. “Safe Streets” was begun in the mid-1980s in response to the need for a safe environment for area children to go for Halloween. Organized by the Red/Sunset Merchants Association and with the support of the City of South Miami, Sunset Drive is closed off from US1 to Red Road from 4-6PM to create a pedestrian mall where costumed children (and adults) gather and safely roam in search of treats provided by local merchants. Association Past President Hans Huseby of FootWorks dresses up as a clown dispensing free “haircuts” to intrepid dads and children. Over the last few years, a haunted house, created and hosted at Veronica’s Doll House has been a popular addition to the event. Other fun activities include a costume contest held at Splitsville, and games held at the entrance to The Shops at Sunset Place.
Volkswagen aficionados, casual car buffs and weekend fun seekers descend on Sunset Drive for Volksblast, generally held in late January or early February. The event was first held in 1998 and hosted at the First National Bank of South Miami parking lot. It originated with VW owners desire to organize events to help raise funds for local charities. Giving back to the community, especially the ones in need, was their main focus. Many VW owners donated time as a club in helping build houses for Habitat for Humanity. Over the course of the years, VolksBlast has raised over $100,000 for different local charities. For the past several years, with support from the City of South Miami, the VW Show event has been held on Sunset Drive, with over 200 cars and several thousand spectators. For additional information go to www.volksblast.com.
Our town center business district has other events during the year which are not held on our main street.
Summertime in South Miami kicks off with the annual Twilight 5K Run & Fitness Walk. This event grew out of FootWork’s Hans and Laurie Huseby’s desire to have a nice, neighborhood run/walk staged in their “backyard.” Another family-centered event, the race often attracts three generations of the same family that includes plenty of children. Good for cementing that community spirit, but also good for your health, the Twilight 5K has attracted the attention of homeowners along the route. Using their front lawns as hydration stations, homeowners offer runners and walkers a cool drink of water on their way to the finish line
in our town center.
The most recent run had some 1,400 participants who got to exercise and enjoy that friendly, small town atmosphere for which South Miami has become famous. Proceeds from the event go to benefit local charities and organizations. (www.teamfootworks.org)
SOMIartwalk© is an event that occurs on the second Friday of each month from October through March. Unlike an art festival, artwalk doesn’t require closing Sunset Drive. One can stroll through our town center, view the artwork on display at local shops and enjoy all that the city has to offer in the evening. Generally, some 15 separate venues participate, featuring an artist in their business. It’s an opportunity to meet established and emerging artists. Artwalk spans our town center from Perfect Balance Karate atn US 1 and Sunset to the other side of town at the Doc Thomas House, home to the Tropical Audubon Society. Students from local schools entertain our South Miami visitors with musical performances and student artwork is also highlighted as part of the SOMI Sidewalk Showcase. Members of the South Miami Senior High JROTC serve as Artwalk Ambassadors providing information to our visitors. For more information, go to artnightsouthmiami.com.
While not happening directly in our business district, the community also celebrates the remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with festivities during Black History Month in February each year. And of course the community comes together for the annual July 4th celebration at Palmer Park.
Join us in SOMI. For a small town, South Miami offers a lot of big city amenities, including fabulous year-round events. The annual events produced over these many years would not be possible without the cooperation of the City of South Miami, our area businesses, presenting sponsors, the volunteers from the local chapters of international service organizations and the community-at-large.
Events are free and open to the general public. Convenient parking can be found in the Municipal Parking Garage located on 73rd Street. Public transit is directly accessible at the South Miami Metrorail Station, which also provides additional parking. And one of the best ways to enjoy SOMI is to ride your bicycle to the events.